30 November 2015

AUS: HMAS Canberra clears lower decks for FCP15

LEUT Nicholas Robinson (author), 
LS Helen Frank (photographer)

Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer speaks to the ship's company and embarked forces of HMAS Canberra during Fleet Concentration Period - East 2015 >>

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, cleared the lower decks of HMAS Canberra as Fleet Concentration Period East 2015 got under way this week. 

The ship’s hangar provided the backdrop for an address from Rear Admiral Mayer that congratulated the ship on its efforts over the last year and highlighted the achievements of the ship’s company.

“You are ahead of the curve in introducing the biggest amphibious capability that the Australian Defence Force has ever operated,” Rear Admiral Mayer said. 

News Story: US and Japan seek unison at sea

USS Ronald Reagan underway (File Photo)

ABOARD THE USS RONALD REAGAN -- This Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency of the 1980s. In its first joint annual exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force since arriving in October at its new home in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, the carrier has remained true to its namesake.

Over 7,000 sailors, seven ships and 70 aircraft from the U.S. 7th Fleet teamed up with 25 ships from the MSDF during the joint drill, known as AE16, held from Nov. 16-25. Supersonic F/A-18 Super Hornets roared off the flight deck one after the other, moving from zero to 200kph in 2 seconds.

It was the first exercise between the two naval forces since Tokyo passed new security laws that enable the SDF to fight alongside allies far from home. It came just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told U.S. President Barack Obama that Japan will consider dispatching SDF ships to the South China Sea, where China has been busy building islands. 

Annual exercises take over a year to prepare, thus the itinerary did not take into account the passage of the new laws. Yet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, signaled that the two sides were conscious of the potential cooperation that the new legislative backing could bring. "For the first time, we transferred not only fuel but food and equipment between JMSDF ships and U.S. ships," he told reporters aboard the carrier, cruising in seas south of Japan.

Vice Adm. Yasuhiro Shigeoka, commander of the MSDF, addressed the media alongside Aucoin. He said that while he had not received any specific orders to sail in the South China Sea, the JMSDF was capable of conducting operations alongside the U.S. Navy if called upon. "We have been conducting training to coordinate with the U.S. Navy," he said, "so if ordered, we are ready to take such action."

Read the full story at Nikkei

News Story: US ‘Steadily Retreating’ In South China Sea Dispute


Those of us who cover the US military in detail, those in the military and those who spend lots of time around the military tend to be at least mildly obsessed with Star Trek and Star Wars. As his opening make clear, Dean Cheng is truly one of the tribe. But his topic, freedom of the seas and how the US, China and other countries cope with the difficult calculus of Taiwan, China, the South China Sea and the larger questions of international law and trade — let alone what is right — is deadly serious. Read on. The Editor.

When the Jedi Council assembled in Star Wars Episode I “The Phantom Menace,” they discussed a prophecy that they would soon be joined by one who would “bring balance to the Force.” Little did they expect that the One would achieve this balance by collapsing the old order.

Reality now seems to be mirroring fiction, as the Administration steadily obscures what it means by the “rebalance” to Asia in the six weeks leading to the next episode of the “Star Wars” franchise. American B-52s and the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier battlegroup both operated in the South China Sea recently, providing ample opportunity to conduct operations within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands, and clearly sending the message to Beijing and the world of the seriousness with which the United States takes freedom of the seas.

After a stymied ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, where China battled hard to stop the group from taking any stance on the South China Sea, Southeast Asia is clearly becoming the focal point of growing tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. As China continues to challenge the United States on the competing principles of sovereignty and freedom of the seas, the reefs, spits, rocks, and islands in the Spratlys have become the center of the battle

For the Chinese, the point is simple. As a Chinese admiral observed recently in London, “The South China Sea, as the name indicates, is a sea area that belongs to China. And the sea from the Han dynasty a long time ago where the Chinese people have been working and producing from the sea.” The issue is one of sovereignty, not only over the land and submerged features, but the waters, the “blue soil” that is encompassed within the “nine-dash line,” now more prominently noted in recent Chinese maps.

For the United States, the point is almost equally straightforward. Washington takes no position on the disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea, but it is firmly committed to the principle of freedom of the seas. All states may use the high seas as they see fit, as they are free for use by all. Conversely, no state may arbitrarily seek to lay claim to swathes of the ocean—and reefs do not exert any justification for territorial claims, even if one builds an artificial island atop it.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: PH air force returns to supersonic age - Fighter jets arrive in Clark

An F/A-50 in flight (File Photo)
The fighter jets arrive a decade after the Philippine Air Force retired the last of its US-designed fighters in 2005

MANILA, Philippines – The fighter jets have landed.

Two of a squadron of FA-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainers (LIFT) that the Philippines acquired from South Korea arrived Saturday morning, November 28, at the former US air base in Clark, Pampanga.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) flew S-211 trainer jets in a diamond formation to meet the FA-50s over Tarlac. A Water Cannon Salute – a ceremony where firefighting vehicles spray water on newly arrived aircrafts – was given to the jets while they were taxiing. Guests and the media witnessed the show.

The arrival of the fighter jets marks the return of the Philippine Air Force to the supersonic age.

The jets were flown to the Philippines by South Korean pilots and will only be formally turned over to the Philippine Air Force after a series of acceptance flights. Another ceremony is expected.

Read the full story at Rappler

Editorial: Europe Must Follow Through on Rights in Thailand

By Anthony Kleven

Brussels must enforce its newfound approach to trade with Thailand.

The European Commission is to be applauded, having recently announced a commendable new values-driven global trade and investment strategy. This fresh approach will fuse jobs and growth with human rights and sustainability. It should leave the world in no doubt that a share of Europe’s riches comes at an ethical price – respect for human dignity, liberty and democracy. The message must be clear: no freedom, no profits.

With this in mind, it is wholly appropriate that Brussels’ morality-laden business strategy comes at the same time as the Commission is poised to turn its trade focus towards what it termed “the vital Asia-Pacific region.” After all, Southeast Asia is a region on the brink, standing on the cusp of economic success while democracy hangs perilously in the balance. And none more so than in Thailand, where an authoritarian regime is suffocating the remnants of democracy while at the same time attempting to charm the international business community. Brussels has the chance to put its actions where its mouth is and enforce this newfound approach to trade with Thailand.

The Bangkok junta, headed by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha is desperately trying to fool the world. Soon after having seized power in May 2014, Prayuth personally addressed the Thai-European Business Association (TEBA), a group representing 80 Thai and European investors, pledging to do “everything” for Thailand to remain a foreign investment hub. He scoffed at suggestions of dictatorial rule. Yet by that point, Prayuth had already detained opponents without charge and outlawed freedom of assembly, by banning gatherings of more than five people. Since, he has shut down media outlets for having the temerity to criticize the regime, a trend which Human Rights Watch fears will have a “choking effect,” anathema to democracy.

Yet, despite this wholesale repression, the junta continues to court global business. Prayuth’s government recently announced an international roadshow, where investment will doubtless be handed the oxygen of incentives, while freedom continues to be strangled.The European Union (EU) has rightly been consistent in criticizing Prayuth and his henchmen. Just a month after the coup, the EU announced an end to official visits and the suspension of free trade talks with Thailand. Within the last several weeks, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a lengthy motion demanding an end to Bangkok’s persistent abuses. But now Brussels should make good on these well-meaning statements and declarations. Europe should make the trade that Prayuth so desperately craves dependent on democratic reform.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Dealing with Pakistan’s Nuclear Breakout

By Julian Schofield

What is the best way to bring Pakistan into the non-proliferation fold?

The 2003 conquest of Iraq, disintegration of Syria, and recent nuclear deal with Iran has seemingly pushed the nuclear non-proliferation frontier to Pakistan. There is concern that at current rates of production, within ten years Pakistan will have the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, from a count of approximately 70 boosted-fission warheads in 2008, to more than 500, and with sufficient range to reach Israel and Turkey. There is a temptation, as part of the next step to roll back nuclear proliferation, for the West to isolate Pakistan as it did with Iraq, Iran and North Korea in the 1990s.

Pakistan’s current weapons grade fissile material production is four times India’s, and Pakistan is more determined to concentrate these resources into warhead production. It possesses four operational production reactors at Khushab collectively able to manufacture 25 to 50 kg of plutonium every twelve months, which, combined with Pakistan’s ongoing highly enriched uranium (HEU) production with 20,000 centrifuges at Kahuta, gives it the capacity to produce between 14 to 27 warheads annually. Refinements at the Khushab site may double this total. India by contrast can manufacture between two and five nuclear weapons in the same period. This pace has continued unabated since 1998, and has received further stimulus from recent Indian-U.S. nuclear material agreements.

Turning international attention and pressure on Pakistan to compel it join the non-proliferation regime will not succeed. The 1968 Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) is often advertised as a collective security framework to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. In fact, it was a bargain between two great powers, the U.S. and the USSR, to jointly promise not to permit the proliferation of nuclear weapons to their allies. In particular, Moscow was concerned that West Germany would acquire an independent nuclear arsenal. Moscow and Washington conceded their failures to reign-in China, France or Israel, and the USSR accepted the NATO framework for the sharing of U.S. nuclear weapons, including with West Germany. Huge arsenals maintained general deterrence against new nuclear weapons programs, as well as extended deterrence to insecure allies, and the deal proved a great success in arresting proliferation. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. extended the principles of the NPT in order to neutralize former Soviet client-states.

The outlines of a second grand bargain took place between China and the U.S. in the 1990s, with China imposing firm export controls on dual-use technology to the developing world. China agreed to cut-off Iran, but was determined to maintain its relationship with Pakistan, on which it depends to draw-off Indian security efforts. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has, since 1974, received important assistance from China, including warhead designs, HEU, scientific testing and training, and missiles technology and production capacity. Although China has reduced its support to Pakistan, primarily because the latter has attained an adequate level of strategic self-sufficiency to deter India, this could be reversed promptly if India were to obtain some technological breakout capacity.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Nepal’s New Challenge

Image: Flickr User - S Pakhrin
By Maximillian Mørch

The adoption of the new constitution is not the end of the struggle for equality, fairness and tolerance.

The recent chaos and political turmoil in Nepal, which followed the promulgation of that country’s new constitution in September, shows what can happen when post-conflict societies attempt to move too fast following conflict. By not investigating war crimes and wartime abuses of power, Nepal risks disrupting its long term future as an equal post-conflict state.

The much heralded new constitution in August was naturally a moment of celebration, welcomed by political leaders as the dawn of a new Nepal. However, ever since the constitution was adopted, Nepal has been in the grip of protests, fuel blockades, and continuing insecurity. With protests in the Terai highlighting the unequal constitution, it is time for Nepal to address underlying ethnic and political tensions so that the country can move forward. While for many the passing of the new constitution was a time of celebration, for others it was a signal to take to the streets. The blockades in the Terai have been highly damaging to Nepal’s economy, and suggest that the promulgation of the new constitution is not the end of the struggle for equality, fairness and tolerance, but rather just the beginning.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

28 November 2015

USA: Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose Travel to China

Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank A. Rose will travel to Beijing, China, November 30 – December 3 to attend an ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on space security. 

Additionally, he will meet with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss issues of mutual concern.

Industry: Thomas Global Systems signs contract to assist with upgrade of Australian Submarine platform training simulator

Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Collins class Submarine
Sydney, Australia – Thomas Global Systems (Thomas Global) has signed a contract with Thales Australia to design and manufacture the complex user interface panels for the Platform Training Simulator (PTS) used to train crews operating the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines.

The PTS emulates the demanding submarine operating environment, ensuring the safe handling of critical systems including manoeuvring, propulsion and diving safety. The system is operated by the Submarine Training and Systems Centre (STSC) based at HMAS Stirling, Rockingham, Western Australia.

Thales is upgrading the Platform Training Simulator to align to the Collins Class submarine current configuration and selected Thomas Global as the major sub-contractor for the project.

Thomas Global CEO, Angus Hutchinson, said – “We are pleased to again be partnering with Thales, this time on the important Collins PTS upgrade program. Thomas has a long history of applying our engineering capabilities to key naval programs, working with partners such as Thales to provide world-class in-country capabilities in support of critical defence assets.”

Industry: Lockheed Martin Continues to Bring World-Class Innovation to South Australia

$3 million investment confirms South Australia as a submarine combat systems integration global centre of excellence

Adelaide, Australia, Nov. 27, 2015: Lockheed Martin today opened a new high-tech laboratory to support the design, delivery and sustainment of Australia’s future Submarine Force, bringing world-class defence innovation to South Australia.

Leveraging significant international expertise, the submarine combat system laboratory will create a collaborative environment where the best minds from industry, academia and government come together openly to create a world-best design that meets Australia’s unique national security and defence challenges.

In recognition of the laboratory’s contribution to future defence projects and the local South Australian economy, today’s opening was attended by the Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and the South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith MP.